The last time Cincinnati played in a nationally televised game, the Bearcats did not put up much of a fight and lost to Tennessee.
Now for Take 2, they get an opportunity to leave a better impression. Cincinnati hosts NC State on Thursday night in a game that can be seen on ESPN. After the disappointing 45-23 loss to Tennessee, the Bearcats are hoping for much better results. So, yes, coach Butch Jones said his team does have something to prove.
“To each other and to everyone here," he said. "Our goal is to be the best football program that we can possibly be and to be on a national stage each and every week. That’s a process. A lot of people don’t like the word 'foundation' or 'building a foundation for our culture,' but it is what it is. I understand we’re an instant-gratification society, but there’s a lot of work that goes into building something like that that’s consistent. Our players feel that and they’re very prideful, so I know they’re excited to play Thursday night as are our coaches and our fans. I believe it’s going to be an electric atmosphere, it’s going to be a blackout. It’s great for our university and our entire community.”
NC State handed Cincinnati a humbling 30-19 loss last season. The Wolfpack actually led 30-7 into the fourth quarter before two late touchdowns made the game appear closer than it was. NC State sacked Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros five times and hurried him four other times. It took nearly the entire game for the Bearcats to run a play inside the NC State 32 yard-line.
Aside from the problems on offense, NC State also blocked a punt, which led to a touchdown. It is no wonder that Jones has stressed playing better on special teams and being more physical on offense and defense in this matchup.
This is a different NC State team than the one Cincinnati faced last season. Russell Wilson is no longer the quarterback. Mike Glennon is more of a pure pocket passer, and that could pose a problem for the Bearcats' secondary, which was picked apart in that loss to Tennessee. The NC State defense also has been racked hard with injuries, losing seven of their top 15 players on the two-deep.
Though Cincinnati has won two games with eye-popping results, only the Tennessee loss came against a team from an automatic qualifying conference. So it is still hard to know what type of team Cincinnati has this season. This game Thursday night will be another gauge.